Train employees on workplace violence categories and how to respond

There are concerns as the economy reopens that there may be an increase in incidents of workplace violence. In May of 2020, as the economy started to open after the first wave of COVID-19, there were at least three shootings in malls in ArizonaFlorida, and Washington. These types of incidents were grim reminders that the problem of workplace violence, and violence in general, did not go away while the country was in lockdown. Additionally, there was an 8.1% rise in domestic violence during the pandemic. Now, with the economy reopening, abusers may be more likely to harass, or even attack, their victim at work. 

The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has broken workplace violence into four categories: 

Type I – Criminal Intent

 This includes robberies and trespassing. The perpetrator has no legitimate relationship to the business or its employees. 

Type II – Customer/Client

 The perpetrator has a legitimate relationship with the business and becomes violent while being served by the business. Perpetrators of Type II workplace violence include clients, customers, and students. 

Type III – Worker on Worker 

Type III workplace violence is carried out by current or past employees against current or past employees. 

Type IV – Personal Relationship 

Workplace violence in this instance is carried out by a perpetrator who may not have a relationship with the business but they have a relationship with the intended target of violence. This type of violence sometimes occurs when domestic violence spills into the workplace. 

Once employees are made aware of workplace violence, they should be made aware of the warning signs and proper response. Warning signs include verbal and non-verbal cues. Verbal cues include speaking loudly or swearing. Non-verbal cues include pacing, fist clenching, and heavy breathing. Workers at a higher risk of workplace violence include delivery drivers, healthcare professionals, public service workers, customer service representatives, law enforcement personnel, and taxi drivers.  

Some proper responses to violent or potentially violent situations are: 

  • Paying attention to a person 
  • Using supportive body language 
  • Avoiding gestures that may be perceived as threatening or dismissive (head shaking, pointing, or arm crossing) 

Even though there are some industries and employees that are at a higher risk of experiencing workplace violence, these events can occur at any type of business. In a recent HSB  commissioned Zogby survey, 91% of respondents indicated they believe that an act of workplace violence could occur in any industry. Also, 41% of respondents believe the consequences are becoming more severe in terms of lower employee morale, employee retention, lost productivity, and lost sales and profits. For more information on our Zogby survey, click here: HSB Survey Shows a Third of Small Businesses Experience Workplace Violence | HSB ( 

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© 2021 The Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection and Insurance Company. All rights reserved. This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to convey or constitute legal advice. HSB makes no warranties or representations as to the accuracy or completeness of the content herein. Under no circumstances shall HSB or any party involved in creating or delivering this article be liable to you for any loss or damage that results from the use of the information contained herein. Except as otherwise expressly permitted by HSB in writing, no portion of this article may be reproduced, copied, or distributed in any way. This article does not modify or invalidate any of the provisions, exclusions, terms, or conditions of the applicable policy and endorsements. For specific terms and conditions, please refer to the applicable endorsement form. 

One comment

  • Shouldn’t we inform our field employees on what to do should they stumble onto a violent situation. Our field inspectors enter businesses and visit high crime areas on a daily basis.

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